Our Six Favourite Irish Prog Bands


It’s St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally a time for sinking more than few pints of Guinness whilst wearing an oversized green hat and ginger beard. We prefer to let the Emerald Isle’s music do its talking, but on closer inspection, Ireland hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of prog talent over the years. We asked Prog’s resident Irish native, Deputy Editor Hannah if she could help. But she’d been to a wedding yesterday and her only response was a bleary eyed “Meh!”. So it fell to me to draw on the roots of an Irish mother and offer up my favourite six Irish prog acts, as well as to wish you all “Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!”…

Horslips - Dearg Doom

Often unfairly labelled Ireland’s answer to Jethro Tull, simply by means of reaching into folky tradition for inspiration, there was always a more rumbustuous Celtic rock vibe running through much of what the great Dublin sextet conjured up in the studio. Dearg Doom is taken from the band’s excellent 1973 album The Tain, which along with 1976’s The Book Of Invasions, arguably their finest work.

Fruupp - The Perfect Wish

The oddly named Fruupp were a Belfast quartet who recorded four albums for Pye Records’ proggy offshoot label Dawn. The Perfect Wish is taken from 1974’s The Prince Of Heaven’s Eyes, the band’s third album and the last one to feature founding member, keyboard player Stephen Houston, who would leave the band to become a Christian minister. The band split in the face of punk rock, as they were attemtping to record a new album. The four Fruupp releases were reissued by Esoteric Records back in 2009.

Mellow Candle - Sheep Season

Fronted by young female vocalists Clodagh Simmonds and Alison O’Donnell who were both at school when their debut single, Feelin’ High was released in 1968. Their only album, Swaddling Songs, appeared in 1972 on the Deram label, from which Sheep Season is taken. Simmonds would later work with Mike Oldfield, for whom she sang Man In The Rain from Tubular Bells III, Jade Warrior and Steve Wilson, whilst O’Donnell has worked mostly in traditional folk music.

Clannad - Sirius

Not strictly prog, although favoured by many prog fans. And no less a source as ProgArchives lists them as prog folk, so we think we can get away with their inclusion here. And guitarist Pol Brennan certainly thought they had enough prog in their material when we interviewed the band a few years ago. Sirius is the bold title track of the band’s tenth album, released in 1987 when they were probably at the very peak of their commercial appeal.

Tír na nÓg - Strong In The Sun

No, we don’t know how to pronounce it either. But this Irish duo of Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell are often hailed as one of the very first progressive bands. Strong In The Sun is taken from the band’s third album, also entitled Strong In The Sun. it also featured Procol Harum’s Matthew Fisher on keyboards. Over the years the band supported the likes of Jethro Tull, ELP and The Who and are still to be found gigging today.

God Is An Astronaut - Reverse World

And finally, to prove that Irish progressive music isn’t just a thing of heritage, here are County Wicklow post rockers God Is An Astronaut. This sweeping slice of cinematic beauty is from Origins, the band’s sixth album released in 2013. The band deem all their albums as a sonic “photograph or snapshot of where we are in that moment of time”. That sounds pretty proggy to us, as does this achingly beautiful five minutes of music.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.